My Go-To Handbag for Work & Travel: Cuyana
Tuesday May 28, 2019

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With each decade I am honing in on the handbag that works best for my life, and while each of us will need something tailored to how we uniquely live, our responsibilities, our schedule, our preferred signature style, there are some fundamentals a quality handbag should have if we would like it to function for both our everyday (going to and from work, errands, etc.) and travel (carrying the necessities to enable us each to have what we need to keep the life we live moving forward).

Here is what I have realized I need for comfort, function and style:

  • a large, roomy tote, but one with compartments to maintain organization in order to find what I need quickly.
  • a large drop that functions with the length of my long arms so I can easily place it over my shoulder with one hand.
  • the height of the tote needs to be able to encompass the height of my water bottle and/or tallest daily item.
  • a special compartment for my water bottle so that it doesn’t tip over and spill over the contents of my handbag (argh – that has happened too many times with my previous tote)
  • a zipper (sturdy in design) that enables me to have privacy regarding the contents of my handbag while traveling.
  • a width that is wide enough to hold a laptop comfortably
  • available in a long-lasting fabric (in this case leather) that is available in a color that works with nearly anything I might wear.

(By the way, this NOT a sponsored post. I am sharing this post because I am extremely happy with what I have discovered, and it worked with my budget quite well.)

Having had two handbags, one for eight years that I would take to school during the work week and a second tote that I have had for four years that I would use when not at school, I began to seek out a tote that I could use for all occasions. Mainly because, get this, I was using a third tote that I had had for 10+ years for my travel and carry-on needs. This was absurd and unnecessary, but it all had to do with what I wanted to travel with me (the necessary size) and the color of the tote.

During the past six or so months I have been searching for a navy leather tote, and while there are many navy totes available, there are as many differing price points as well. The keys, as I shared above, were clear in my mind, so it took some time, but I finally found exactly what I was looking for.

For over a month now I have been using Cuyana’s Classic Leather Zipper Tote with a brushed suede tote organization insert as seen in this post. The navy tote has revealed itself to be everything I was looking for, and I couldn’t be more pleased. The key for me with this tote is the organization insert. I have always loved large totes, but not the disorganization that ultimately prevails after just a few days of use.

No more. With the organization insert (available in four different colors), there is a safe and secure place for my water bottle, a sleeve for my laptop for travel, and smaller compartments, as you can see in the images below, for the other items I need on a daily basis – brush, lip balm, pens, personal necessities, etc. – there is also a clip for my keys so I don’t have to dig endlessly on the bottom of my tote to find them.

~empty, accessorized with the organization insert in blush~
~full with what I would take with me on a plane or extended travel~
~the contents in my purse in the above image: a full-size book, magazine, water bottle, wallet, lip gloss, laptop, tea (bien sûr!), sunglasses, brush, pen and keys~

While I chose the zipper option, there is the traditional classic tote with no zipper. I went back and forth on this choice, but ultimately, I am happy I chose the zipper as my totes have the amazing talent of being able to fall over or tip over or fall upside down when I really don’t want it too (is yours talented like that as well?) ;). But more importantly, I do like the idea of having some privacy even when I do need to bring a large tote along for what I need.

There are many different colors of totes to choose from and sizes, but the price point was fair for the quality I received, especially compared to other totes I saw while trying to find what I was looking for. Also, Cuyana is a brand to support. Cuyana was founded by Karla Gallardo and Shilpa Shah whose may purpose in creating the company was to create products of intention that were made with integrity. The fewer the items we have the better is their approach as well, so producing quality products is their goal; consequently, I couldn’t think of a better working premise to align with as TSLL than Cuyana.

~zipped and ready to go!~

~Shop Cuyana’s Classic Zipper Leather Tote here

  • all leather totes can be monogrammed

~Explore the entire Cuyana site

~Shop their new updated Oversized Tote – the Double Loop Bag (in similar colors) here.


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22 thoughts on “My Go-To Handbag for Work & Travel: Cuyana

  1. I’ve owned Cuyana products for a few years now and have been happy with the way the products have aged. I looked for a very specific tote for a long time too, it was surprisingly difficult finding one with zipper.

    1. Good point. Totes with a zipper, and a dependable, well constructed zipper, are not widely available. As someone who places quite a bit in my totes and puts them to the weight and stretch test quite a bit, I am confident this durable zipper is not going to malfunction or rip. Such peace of mind. Thank you Denise for sharing your experience with Cuyana.

  2. Shannon, I have used the same bag, in black, for two years and love it. I can recommend the Work Clutch – Very handy to take out to run into a store if you don’t want to carry your big bag. Thanks for the great post!

  3. I enjoyed your comments about carrying a large purse. I had to smile as I too carry a zippered purse but mine is far more cluttered than yours and from the outside your purse looks empty … mine on the other hand looks like I’ve been collecting things at a rummage sale. Though I don’t use everything in my purse every day I know where particular items are there and when the need arises I know right where to grab them — case in point my emergency phone charger. Small purses are great for evenings but I find as I have grown older that a larger purse gives me the comfort of having multiple items with me at all times. I full length zipper without gaps at each end avoids tubes of lipstick, pens etc from slipping out when the purse decides unexpectedly to fall over. Nice to see someone else carrying an attractive, large tote. I agree that finding purses with sturdy zippers is a challenge. Great article!

  4. I love the Cuyana brand and have several bags. They came out with a gorgeous Royal Blue a few years ago, sold out in a blink and never have I seen it again. There products are well made, tastefully designed and their regular packaging is so lovely, you can confidently send as gifts.

  5. Hi Shannon,
    I love the small table you show in this picture. Would you be wiling to share where you got it? It’s exactly what I need!
    Thank you!

    1. Helene, Thank you for your question. I have to share that I received this table as a gift more than 15 years ago from my parents. So I am not sure where they picked it up. I am sorry I cannot be of more help.

  6. I have the same exact bag also in navy! I love it. I travel for business and looked for quite a while for a zippered bag that wasn’t too big but could hold all of my essentials. This bag will last for years and the price point was just right. The zipper was a must – my coworker has a similar bag without a zipper and when she went through security her passport fell out of her bag and was lost – talk about a nightmare! She couldn’t make the business trip. Anyway, thanks that for the great tip. 🙂

    1. Dominique, Thank you for sharing your experience with this bag. This is the first zippered tote I have had, but for very similar reasons (but not trip halting, I feel horrible for your coworker), having the zipper is nice and welcomed change. I too look forward to having this bag for quite some time.

  7. Hi Shannon! I love the little water bottle you’ve shown in this picture – where is it from, please?

  8. Have you noticed any shedding, linting, or color transfer from the raw leather on the inside of the bag on to your items or staining the blush insert? I am considering getting this tote in black with the blush insert but am worried that this could be an issue. Thanks for your response. 🙂

  9. Thanks for your blog. Everyone has their favorite tote and your is fabulous. I like your points about what you look for in a tote bag. The Cuyana is perfect it holds a lot and you showed us what you put in your tote, and it didn’t even look full! Thanks for the info.

  10. Hi Shannon, I am not sure if you will actually see this since this is an older post however, I thought it was worth a shot. I am looking into making a hand bag purchase and want to make the right choice. I usually carry a purse and a bag for all my work necessities. I would really like to condense into one bag for all. I love the look of this bag! My question since I’ve never owned either, would you recommend this tote or the Longchamp large tote? I would like it function as both a purse and bag if you will. Thank you for all the time you put into your work, so that we the readers have such a lovely outlet to explore.

    1. Jennier, Good question. I haven’t had direct personal experience with Longchamp, but I love the brand. I am still loving my Cuyana tote, but I use it solely for going to school (so to hold larger items) or traveling (as I use it as my on-flight tote). So I guess, if you are looking for a purse and a bag, Cuyana would be the one I would highly recommend because you can have the inset which creates pockets and holders for different items – a laptop, water bottle, smaller items, etc.. I could not be happier with my purchase. I hope that helps. Thank you for asking. 🙂

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